The wran, the wran, the king of the birds

In Blog, Cultureby Fedayn2 Comments

Some of us here at rabble HQ are old enough or culchie enough to know the words…some of youse probably never even met a Wrenboy

Depending on local tradition some variant of the following occurs on St.Stephen’s Day. Children or adults ‘hunt’ a wren (or wran, in the west). The wren is known as a winter bird and is associated with celtic mythology & druidic tradition. Following the hunt the bird has it’s knee broken and is tied to a decorated pole and paraded around the town for the collection of money to sponsor a dance.

In reality a fake bird is tied to a pole or sometimes I’ve seen wrens or robins carried around in a cage or a clear plastic box.

The mummers, Strawboys or plain Wrenboys perform songs and dances to traditional airs from pub to pub. They collect a little money for this from the punters.

The traditional song upon entering an establishment is along the lines of this:

‘The wran, the wran, the king of all birds, On St. Stephen’s day was caught in the furze. His body is little but his family is great So rise up landlady and give us a trate. And if your trate be of the best Your soul in heaven can find its rest. And if your trate be of the small It won’t plaze the boys at all. A glass of whiskey and a bottle of beer Merry Christmas and a glad New Year. So up with the kettle and down with the pan And give us a penny to bury the wran.

Sometimes a variant of, ‘We chased him from bush to bush and from tree to tree, and in Donnelly’s Hollow we cracked his knee’, is included.

For more on the Wrenboys check this site


  1. Interesting. My mother told me today how her brothers used to catch birds and put them in jars (!!!!) and call to houses and even public houses as Wran boys. This was near Cong in the 50s/60s.

Leave a Comment